Day 4 at the 470 European Championship delivered the perfect recipe for racing - 10-12 knots breeze and no rain. Two races were held for each of the fleets, racing to a target time of 60 minutes, in a consistent breeze from 280 degrees.
With the discard coming into play after race 5 yesterday, today was not a day to notch up any more high scores, but in the 470 Men fleet that is exactly what happened with nine teams taking a BFD penalty in race 8 for being over the line.
Great Britain’s Sophie Weguelin/Sophie Ainsworth and Croatia’s Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic continue to sit atop the leaderboard in the 470 Women and 470 Men fleets, but the points amongst the top teams are closing.
A standout performance today from Russia’s Mikhail and Maxim Sheremetyev, whose 2,3 propels them up to third overall in the 470 Men fleet.
470 Women Slovenia’s Olympic team of Tina Mrak/Teja Cerne went into day 4 of racing knowing that despite only having a 4 point deficit to the British leaders Sophie Weguelin/Sophie Ainsworth, they could not afford to let the pair secure any more of a points’ advantage.
So game on for Slovenia to take charge, which they did for most of race 7, before losing the lead to Anna Burnett/Flora Stewart (GBR) and Weguelin/Ainsworth who placed second.
They out smarted Bochmann/Panuschka after some boat to boat duelling, and secured their best result of the series so far and a move up the leaderboard to seventh. A delighted Burnett said, 'Finishing first felt really good. We needed it after yesterday when we ripped our kite. We’ve not had a brilliant regatta so far so getting a first was a good step in the right direction. We have never had a first at this level before, only in junior events, so that is a good boost for us as well. We are going in the right direction now.'
Despite not maintaining their hold on the race, a second place finish kept the Slovenians in second overall and closed the points margin to Weguelin/Ainsworth to just 1 point difference after race 7.
All change by the end of race 8 though, with a race win to the German pair of Annika Bochmann/Elisabeth Panuschka moving them up to second place. Weguelin/Ainsworth hold their lead on the scoreboard, but only just, finding themselves in the unusual situation of being on equal total and equal net points with Germany’s Annika Bochmann/Elisabeth Panuschka, and both teams carrying a seventh place discard. Championships don’t get much closer than this.
Sophie Weguelin said, 'It was a tricky day. In the first race we separated ourselves from the fleet to the right hand side and we were basically playing comeback from there. A lot of boats and a lot of distance rounded in front of us at the first mark, so it was an interesting kind of race but we managed to claw back a little bit.'
Believing they had spotted a pressure advantage to the right of the race track, the team took a flyer and separated from the fleet, as Weguelin explained, 'We thought the pressure was pretty much cloud driven and there were some good looking clouds out there, a bit of rain on the far right. It didn’t really work in our favour but we clawed back a little bit. After the first race we said it was a little bit ridiculous to create so much separation from the rest, particularly the other two give it looks like a three boat race at the moment. I guess from now on that will be a little bit more of a focus for us. But, we need to keep on doing what we have been doing well and not worry too much about the other boats.'
Down into third overall go Tina Mrak/Teja Cerne. But with only 2 points separating these top three teams, the aim of the game is to sail safe and cover each other.
The goal of Annika Bochmann/Elisabeth Panuschka as they countdown to Wednesday’s medal race is to cover the other top two teams, Bochmann said, 'I think our tactic is to have enough points for a good result and stay close to the other boats. We will not change our sailing approach. We will stick to the other two teams at the start and just try to do our best. When we come to the medal race we will consider our strategy. Today was great racing though.'
Outside of the top three, the next team is 17 points behind, with Joanna Freeman/Katie Tomsett (GBR) leading the charge from fourth position.
Whilst the top three are looking assured of holding their positions bar a disaster, some of the younger teams enjoyed their best day of the Championship so far, including Sweden’s Kajsa Sundklev/Therese Antman (SWE).
Competing at their second 470 European Championship, Antman was pleased with their race 7 result, saying, 'We took a good start on the leeward start and had a good upwind and rounded about sixth, and then the last downwind was really good. We had really good speed and played the waves.' This result has given the team motivation, as Sundklev commented, 'It was good today. Yesterday we had a good race and rounded third in the first upwind mark, but we know we haven’t sailed together as long as the others and we lost a little bit all the time, but today we really felt we did everything well.'
470 Men After a general recall, the Race Committee hoisted the black flag to try and bring order to the second attempt to start race 7. But it didn’t make much difference, with black flag penalties scuppering the race for nine hasty teams, including four of the top ten. Any more mistakes for them and a fall out of the top 10 is assured.
A surprise pop out of the fleet to round the windward mark in the first leg of race 7 for Austria’s Benjamin Bildstein/David Hussl was looking good, but all was not to be as they turned out to be one of the teams facing the black flag penalty.
The two Olympic teams of Ferdinand Gerz/Patrick Follman (GER) and the defending 470 European Champions Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO) were next to round, with the Germans finding some great pace and held their lead to cross the line in first place, but a black flag penalty put any hope of a second win in the trash can for them too, and the same fate befell the Croatians.
Marenic explained their false start, 'The boats around us were out and we tried to have a decent start and we thought that maybe we were not in front. It is still early days and we have a big discard now that we have to take care of. There are some points between the top three and the next, but there are still four races and these are not the easiest conditions to sail.'
So with the leading boats out, the race 7 win went to France’s Skoczek/Nebout (FRA). However, the leaderboard advantage went to Ben Saxton/Richard Mason (GBR), after their fourth place finish pushed them into first overall, with the Croatians dropping to second.
All change after race 8, with the early starters from race 7 were more restrained for and a clear start called. The charge to the windward mark was led by Jasper Wagner/Dustin Baldewein (GER), Antonis Tsimpoukelis/Pavlos Kagialis (GRE), Luke Ramsay/Mike Leigh (CAN), but some clever playing of the wind shifts played out to the hands of the Greeks, who took the race win.
Tsimpoukelis commented, 'I was disappointed in race 7 as we did not sail very well. But in the second race we had a great start and were in the top 5-6 boats. From there it was easy to have a good race. I like sailing with Pavlos and it is a really good experience.' 420 World Champion in 2009, Tsimpoukelis competed only in Greece throughout 2011. The 2012 470 Europeans are his first major event this year and planned as preparation for his assault on the 2012 470 Junior European Championship.
Kagialis paid tribute to his helm saying, 'He is a really talented sailor. But you know in the 470 Class it is not enough to be a talent, there are lots of other things you have to work on.'
When asked what it is like to switch to sail with a different helm, Kagialis said, 'There were some problems in the downwind because we are not a regular team, but we sailed well in the second upwind with only a few mistakes and took the lead to win with a good margin. It is very difficult because Panagiotis [previous helm] is a very experienced sailor and Antonis is very young. It is very difficult for me when you see all the boats passing us. But I like it and have taught Antonis quite a lot of things.'
Victory moved the Greeks up into the top 10. The Croatians reclaimed their yellow jerseys, with Ben Saxton/Richard Mason (GBR) in second overall, and the Sheremetyev brothers from Russia in third.
Canada Day gave the Canadian brothers, Jacob and Graeme Saunders, a double reason to celebrate as they posted their best result of the series, a tenth in race 7. Younger brother Jacob said, 'We are really happy to be here in Scotland and in the UK and are here right up until the Olympics training with Luke Ramsay and Mike Leigh. It has been a great experience for us, being able to push them and help to get them going even faster to get a good result for Canada at the Olympics. We are improving all the time working with them and other great teams going to the Games.'
After the 2012 Olympics, the brothers have their own Olympic dreams to secure, as Graeme explained, 'Our ultimate goal is 2016 of course and we set that two years ago when we started sailing the 470. We are both also in school at Dalhousie in Canada, so we are both going back to school first.'
The forecast for race day 5, Monday 2 July 2012, is lighter winds of around 7 knots from the north-west. The race programme is two races for each fleet on course area c, with the 470 Men fleet racing first with a scheduled warning signal of 1200 hours.